The Book Beautiful: Front & Back Matter (It Matters!)

So you’ve written a manuscript, thus the ‘meat’ of your book is complete. However, you want to happily sandwich that meat between what we call ‘front matter’ and ‘back matter.’ Front matter includes things like the half-title, the title page, the copyright page, a dedication, acknowledgements, a table of contents, and perhaps other things such as an epigraph, a preface, an introduction, or a prologue. The back matter can include an index, an appendix, and other material that doesn’t belong in the meat of the book, but that you’d like to include to feel you have a complete book.

First, let’s break down what front and back matter should include and how to make them look professional and appropriate. We’ll begin by tackling the different types of front matter you can choose to include.

 

  • Half Title –  As writers, you’re probably (and hopefully!) avid readers yourself, so you know that typically the first page of a book tends to just contain the title of the book. No author name, no other clutter, just a straightforward, bold texted title.
  • Title Page – The title page will also include the title of the book, but it will also include a subtitle (if you have one), the author’s name, as well as the name of the publishing company of the book. Other details that are often found on this page would be the location of the publishing house, the year the book was published, and perhaps even an illustration.
  • Copyright Page – You’ll usually find the copyright page by simply flipping the title page, and it will have a copyright notice, edition information, cataloging data, publication information, legal notices, and your book’s ISBN.
  • Dedication Page – This page will typically follow your copyright page and can be as simple as…

 

For my dearest mother Mary: R.I.P.

Or they can be witty…

“I dedicate this book to George W. Bush, my Commander-in-Chief, whose impressive career advancement despite remedial language skills inspired me to believe that I was capable of authoring a book.”

Pedram Amini, ‘Fuzzing: Brute Force Vulnerability Discovery’

Or they can be touching…

“Dear Pat,

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?”

I asked you what you wanted, and you said, “A box.”

“What for?”

“To put things in.”

“What kind of things?”

“Whatever you have,” you said.

Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts- the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.

And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.

And still the box is not full.”

–John Steinbeck, ‘East of Eden

 

  • Acknowledgements Page – This is where you can express your appreciation for all of those who helped you create the book.
  • Table of Contents – The table of contents is where you list all the major divisions within your book, more often than not in the form of chapters. The length of your book will determine how detailed your table of contents will need to be–a longer book will typically require a more detailed table of contents to assist your reader in navigating the piece.
  • Epigraph – An epigraph is a quotation that you can choose to devote an entire page to (usually facing the table of contents), or that you can choose to put at the start of the first chapter.
  • Preface – A preface is place for the author to explain how the book came into being and is often signed and dated by the author.
  • Introduction – Here the author can explain the goals of the work, place the work in context, or explain the organization and scope of the work.
  • Prologue – A prologue is told from the voice of a character in the book, and not the author’s own. It is typically used in a piece of fiction to set the scene for the story that is about to unfold.

As for the back matter of your book,

  • Index – An index will act as a guide to the book itself; it provides an alphabetized list of terms in the text and will indicate where in the text these terms were used.
  • Appendix – An appendix will provide supplementary details about your book such as corrections, updates, and details.

 

Now these are merely suggestions for what you can choose to include in the front and back matter of your book. What is most important is that what you do include looks professional and is well formatted. Pick up multiple books from your shelf and take a look at the front and back matter for a point of reference. While you’ve probably skipped over it on most books you’ve read, think how much more legitimate books with these sections look than books without them. These parts of publishing may seem tedious, but as I’ve said before, they are what will transform your manuscript into a book.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

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